March 14, 1951, Albert Einstein celebrated his 72nd birthday. His colleagues and friends had organized a party at Princeton University’s private club. The event allowed entrance to several photographers to capture moments with the great physicist who had developed the theory of relativity and was already honored with the Nobel Prize for his photoelectric research. Einstein was the star of the evening. Photographers captured photos of him shaking hands, greeting with people and drinking cognac. Every time he realized the lens of the camera was aiming at him, the great physicist turned his head and smiled.
At the end of the night, Frank Eidot, former director of the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton, where Einstein taught at the end of his life, was willing to take him to his house with his chauffeur. On their way to the car, the photographers began to chase him for another photo. According to some, Einstein turned and said, “Enough!” But they did not hear him. Among them was the photographer Arthur Sase. But he was waiting for the crowd of photographers to dissolve. When most photographers had taken the pictures they wanted and left, Sase took action. Einstein had just entered the backseats of the car between the former director of the Institute and his wife. Before the door closed Sase said to him “Professors, smile for your birthday photo”.
Einstein reacted spontaneously and instead of smiling, he took out his tongue. He thought it would ruin the photo and the photographer would not be able to capture it. His “pose” lasted only a few seconds and immediately turned his head. However, Sase as an experienced photographer managed to capture him.
Sase sent copies of the photographs he had taken to Einstein. His reaction was surprising. Everyone was expecting him to be angry or at least that he would not want to see them. On the contrary, Einstein loved them! He signed the original and asked him nine copies to send them to friends along with greeting cards.
A few years later, after Einstein had died, the photographer handed his photo with the tongue to United Press International. His superiors were surprised. The editor-in-chief claimed that it should not have been published. The writing manager was delighted. After a long meeting, they decided to publish it. Besides, even the professor had approved it.
Einstein already had the reputation of the bizarre scientist. But this photo turned him from “serious” to “crazy and naughty teacher”. The photo was widely distributed and is one of the most characteristic photos of a well-known personality of the 20th century. The photo became part of the pop culture. It became t-shirts, posters, even mugs. The authentic photo was sold for 74 thousand dollars at an auction in 2009 at auction. It’s his most expensive photo.
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